Tag Archives: semantics

When words collide – Why this is not the end of the Greek crisis

So, as most reasonable people hoped and expected, a compromise has emerged. Greece extends the bailout for four months, has a few days to suggest measures that will work to meet the broad targets therein, but the overall constraints on the primary surplus can, seemingly, be relaxed. So, a less austere bailout. Germany wins on forms of words – the Troika (now unnamed but there) remains, the bailout remains, but the words that are used suggest a lower degree of austerity. Peston sees the Greeks getting the best of it as does Frances Coppola, Bloomberg the Germans, Frances Coppola noting that this gives Syriza a chance to show that it and Greece via it can be trusted to behave like a modern half decently managed country. I think she misses the point in making this point. Greece has an appalling record, but the ordolemmingism that Germany has pushed onto everyone as The One True Way to Prosperity also represents a breach of trust, that states can find their own way within bounds of sense.

Nonetheless, I dont see this as the end. Here, in a picture, is why. Its about words. Humpty Dumpty stated ‘When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’. Are Greece and Germany reading the same words while being on the same page? I am not sure.

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Germand and Greeks use words and impart meaning to language in very very different ways. The diagram is from Richard Lewis, and is a model of national cultures to complement the well known World Value Survey, GLOBE, Schwartz and Hofstede models. Crucially, it concentrates on language. Cultures are arrayed around three main poles.  These are as below  Germans are Linear-Active. They place great store on the written word, and are planners. Greeks, not so much. The spoken word, in other words, interpretations of what the written word might mean, that is what matters.

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